Kakegurui – 12 (Fin)

Jamabi Yumeko’s charisma and obsession with her craft has netted her loyal friends in Suzui Ryouta, Sumeragi Itsuki, and Saotome Mary. Suzui isn’t even going to oppose her decision to challenge the President; he’ll stay by her side. So will the girls, but when they present a variety of ways to cheat in the upcoming gamble, Yumeko is grateful, but declines any shenanigans, which will only ruin the fun.

All she wants is to gamble with Momobami, and all Momobami wants is to gamble with her. They both decide to leave things up to fate—literally: the scoring in their game will be determined by the values on various cards in a Tarot deck. Momobami will pick for the past, Yumeko for the present, and Ryouta for the future.

But just one card, The Fool, could determine Momobami and Yumeko’s fates. Whomever loses must leave the academy forever.

This is pretty simple stuff, and it’s basically a means of determining if either gambler has the “stars aligned”, as it were, in their favor; considering the success both have found in past gambles, they’re both pretty “lucky” gamblers, but it’s their drive to make greater and riskier bets that enables them to access that luck, where more timid players may shrink.

I will say that the overseer of the game, the lolipop-sucking, fang-bearing Yomozuki Runa, is a frequent and grating distraction; it was never explained why she’s so tiny or why she wears an animal costume or how and why she’s so good at gambling that she’s on the student council, so it’s hard to care about her that much. But at least she’s not a direct participant in the game, just the ref.

When Yumeko draws a +1 card and Kirari draws a -21, putting Yumeko in a 20-point hole, one person who is a participant and ultimately does not shrink before his duty is Ryouta. While initially clearly scared of all the responsibility foisted upon him to the point of being overwhelmed, Yumeko calms him by assuring him that the responsibility is hers and hers alone; she chose this game, and will accept whatever outcome.

But Ryouta says she’s wrong: he is responsible for the card he chooses, and how it will affect both Yumeko’s future and his own. He doesn’t want her to leave the academy; he wants to remain by her side, either supporting her or playing against her.

His speech voicing his commitment causes Yumeko to have one of her patented gambling-gasms, the last of the season, and he avoids the card almost too obviously marked as potentially The Fool (the card that will cause Yumeko to automatically win) and instead draws Judgment, which nets Yumeko 20 points for a total of +21 to Kirari’s -21. It’s a draw – no one has to leave the academy.

With this result, essentially everyone wins: Momobami stays on as president, but seems open to dissolving the council in light of someone like Yumeko blowing up her “aquarium” for the better; Ryouta, Mary, and Itsuki don’t lose their crazy new friend; and Yumeko remains at the academy, and is able to continue doing what she loves best.

Despite the stakes, Kirari and Yumeko’s final gamble can’t really touch some of the previous gambles that had more time to marinate. As for the reveal that Runa is in contact with “Momobami Ririka”, the mask-wearing council member Kirari disguised herself as last week, elicited little more than a shrug from me.

But the stage is set for a possible second season down the road, perhaps with a fresh set of new, distorted faces, new alliances, and new gambles. If this episiode didn’t mark the end of Kakegurui, I’ll probably take a peek at its continuation.

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Kakegurui – 11

When Yumeko gives up two queens, it convinces Kaede she’s going for the choice to make the “weakest” hand win. When Itsuki fronts 100 chips for Yumeko’s cause, Kaede stays on the “high road” and simply continues to raise, knowing he has enough funds to best them and choose “strongest.”

Just as he expected, Yumeko raises and raises until there’s no more money left, until she brings up life plan she got from the council when she was in deep debt, stating one’s “life” in terms of the value appraised by such plans should be a bet-able commodity.

While Itsuki initially struggles with offering the value of her own life for Yumeko’s sake, she realizes she can’t win and stop Kaede and others from looking down on her if she isn’t willing to bet everything she has and everything she is and ever will be. As a symbol of her wager, she tears out her fancy nails with her teeth – which really would hurt more than she lets on!

Kaede doesn’t accept the raise at first, as he considers the life plans given to livestock to be mere collateral until debts are paid. But as dealer the Vice President gets to decide, not him or Yumeko, and she decides the bet is valid to the tune of 10 billion yen. When Kaede bristles at her authority, she removes her mask to reveal she is President Momobami; she never left.

This is where Kaede, in a desperate bid to regain control of the game, decides he’ll raise Yumeko and Itsuka once more by betting his own life, thus straying from the high road he was assured would take him all the way to the national finance minister’s office. He believes this can only happen if he usurps Momobami, and Itsuka’s funds are a crucial means to that end.

Having raised his life, Kaede is awarded choice, and chooses “strongest.” Itsuka’s initial reaction looks like one of shock over putting all her hopes in Yumeko and losing again…but Kaede’s three 8’s are no match for Yumeko’s three Jacks, and Yumeko and Itsuka are victorious. All because he left the high road…and couldn’t stop looking down on Itsuka, inspiring her to defeat him at all costs.

The loss leaves Kaede unconscious, with hair as white as snow, as if bled dry of all vitality. As he’s carried off by medics, Itsuka feels bad for him, without whom she’d never have gotten into the council, or stood where she stands now. Yumeko can’t help but think how beautiful is the sight of someone who bet everything…and lost.

That leaves Momobami and Yumeko boring holes into one another with their blue and red eyes, respectively. Having beaten Kaede (and drawn out a side of him she’s never seen), the president has all but confirmed that the one gambler who has a snowball’s chance in hell of standing beside her is this Jabami Yumeko person.

Yumeko seems to be similarly interested in what Momobami is capable of, and deduces her the root of her discontent all along, even as she watched the life escape from countless gamblers: What Momobami wants most of all is to see herself in that position…and that requires someone other than herself; someone who can surpass her. She can’t wait to see if that’s who Yumeko is, and Yumeko can’t wait to show her.

Kakegurui – 10

Fresh off of beating Yumemi, Yumeko challenges Manyuda to an official match in front of the same crowd, without so much as an intermission for bathroom breaks! The Vice President (she of the white mask and distorted voice) steps in as dealer of a game called “choice poker”, in which no folding or calling is allowed, but the last person to raise can decide whether the stronger or weaker hand is the winning one.

In the crowd, both Mary and Sumeragi recognize that this game overwhelmingly favors the player with more money; in this case, Manyuda with his 100 starting chips over Yumeko and her 31. But having watched three other council members fall to her, Manyuda has a good basis of data upon which to calculate the best strategy to defeat Yumeko.

Specifically, he knows she’s a compulsive gambler and a little insane, and so needlessly makes risky raises despite the fact this is a game of more measured, one-chip raises. Sugita Tomokazu’s inner monologue dominates the episode, and at times it sounds like a slightly less apathetic Kyon is playing a particularly serious game of cards against Haruhi.

But at the end of the day, it’s a simple card game, with simple rules, and when Manyuda sticks to fundamentals, he manages to easily bait Yumeko out of all her chips. It’s then when Yumeko beseeches Sumeragi, who said she wanted to be her friend, to bail her out with more cash.

It’s revealed that Manyuda recommended Sumeragi’s entry into the Student Council, after she proved to him they had similar levels of ambition, but when Yumeko beat her she was discarded, and Manyuda concluded Sumeragi never had the talent to match her lofty ambitions.

That doesn’t stop him from appealing to her desperation in trying to return to a position of power where she can again vie for the top spot, as well as inherit her family’s business, something only possible with a council seat, so he dangles that over her head to counter Yumeko’s request.

Sumeragi doesn’t fall for it, instead pledging 100 chips to Yumeko, hoping to exact revenge on Manyuda, who only ever saw her as a pawn; a stepping stone on his own road to the top. Yumeko rarely looks that reliable, but Manyuda is clearly underestimating her. There’s a method to her madness she has yet to reveal to anyone—perhaps even herself!

Prison School – 12 (Fin)

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I am sad that there is no more Prison School to watch, but it couldn’t have delivered a better finale, one that many an anime should look to for reference when it comes to delivering the goods, with interest in the ninth hour and satisfying on virtually every level, but not giving its wronged but not entirely innocent lads too easy a final result. No one is innocent by the end of Prison School. But that’s okay!

We begin the end with the “enhanced interrogation tactics” Meiko employs on Anzu (i.e., sitting on her face), just as Shingo and the guys figure out that it’s Anzu helping them by helping Chiyo. It’s good to know they know Kiyoshi isn’t the only one sticking his neck out for them (though that’s not to say he isn’t).

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Kiyoshi would be having the time of his life kissing a cute, well-bred girl after-hours in the corrections office…if Hana was a girl he liked, and if Hana liked him. That’s obviously not the case. Instead, as he realizes, Hana’s kiss is a very rigid and uncertain one; as if she’s as out of her element as he is.

They are both of them complacent in appropriating sexual behavior for reasons other than mutual stimulation (though that’s a side effect): Hana wants to exact perfect justice; while Kiyoshi, knowing Hana’s weakness whenever things have gotten too far, performs a “Flight of Shimazu” in Hana’s mouth, breaking through her dental defenses with his tongue, meeting hers, and engaging in furious combat until she’s defeated.

Thanks to her height and the design of the office window, Chiyo is thankfully spared the sight of this spectacle, and only sees the top of Kiyoshi hunched over (this is, to the end, a show where every inch and second matters). She’s also kept from walking in on them when Kiyoshi cries out “Not yet!” but that also wakes Hana up, who sends Kiyoshi back to his cell for lights out, despite still being very out of it.

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Mari and Meiko are satisfied the boys are indeed locked away in bed, and no longer up to anything, apparently resigned to their fate. But that’s exactly what Kiyoshi and Gakuto want them to think, and the next morning, the tables turn: they discover Joe is posing as Gakuto, while Chiyo is poising as Joe.

The real Gakuto makes quite the entrance, donning only his underwear (not wishing to sully the lovely Chiyo’s gym clothes), just in time for him and Kiyoshi to explain how they made a three-way switch when Hana let them use the bathroom.

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While Gakuto was free, he made full use of the time to restore and extract the DTO files, which he produces in the form of a thumb drive he was keeping hidden up his ass for safekeeping. I knew when he came in in his underwear this would be the case, but I wasn’t prepared for the super-serious yet also super-hilarious manly exchange between him and the chairman, and how the latter has no qualms about touching the drive. After looking over the files, he’s satisfied the Underground StuCo indeed set traps to get them expelled.

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When Hana realizes she’s the one who allowed Kiyoshi to unlock the door, she rushes at him with murderous intent. I must say, it has been an absolute joy listening to Hanazawa Kana play all the myriad sides of Midorikawa Hana, alongside Ohara Sayaka and Itou Shizuka as Mari and Meiko, respectively.

And it’s Mari who shields Kiyoshi from Hana’s punch taking responsibility for everything she put both her subordinates and the boys through. This final gesture suggests even she knows the gig is well and truly up. Though she believed it was for a good reason, she broke the rules, and lost.

But most importantly, Mari failed to see the boys as anything but scum. That unyielding prejudice was her undoing. Yes, the boys were guilty of peeping (God, that seems like eons ago), but they more than paid their debt to the school for that crime. Mari tried to ride her exclusionary agenda too far, and got burned.

There’s also the fact that she kept digital records of DTO rather than deal exclusively in burnable paper documents. She would have probably been victorious had Gakuto had no evidence to stick up his ass. But it wouldn’t have been a moral victory, no matter what Mari told herself later, and her relationship with Chiyo would have taken an even stronger hit.

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But she didn’t win; the boys did; the Chairman declares their time served and grants them their freedom. The sight of them in regular high school uniforms is a glorious sight for sore eyes, as is the extremely happy ending all the guys get, from Kiyoshi being fed by Chiyo, to Andre finding a group of girls who love his size, ears, and punchability; to Shingo and Anzu picking their courtship up where they left off; to Joe playing with his ants. Heck, even Gakuto reaches for the same 3K book as a very comely young lady who wears her hair in Chinese buns.

More importantly, rather than peep on the girls form afar, the lads (other than Joe) are engaging the girls; treating them not as objects to be admired and leered over from afar, but as fellow human beings to interact with on equal terms. It could be argued their incarceration actually improved them as men; they certainly appreciate their freedom.

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But not everything is peaches and sunshine at Hachimitsu. This is a show about reversals, and the most devastating one is saved for last, when a particularly wrathful redhead whom I assume is the regular StuCo president (as opposed to underground) comes to the Chairman (with her own agenda) and demands justice be doled out for Mari, Meiko and Hana. Wanting to avoid the specter of nepotism, the Chairman acquiesces.

That means throwing them in the very jail they once ran. And you know what? It doesn’t feel right. I don’t need the girls to get their “just desserts” in this manner. A direct turnabout like this wasn’t necessary, and it only feels bitter in my mouth—as I’m sure it does to Kiyoshi and the others—and as I’m sure it was meant to. After all, they know exactly what it’s like in there, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone…even those who originally put them there.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind a second season that explores further the relationships of Anzu+Shingo, or Gakuto+3K girl, or the Chiyo-Kiyoshi-Hana triangle (if that’s indeed a thing), or the possibility of Mari changing her mind about men, or Meiko growing a spine in the aftermath of her leader’s fall.

I’d also love to watch Kiyoshi, the other guys, and the girls who’ve befriended them (3K girl is one of the redhead’s lieutenants) work together to try to free their three former antagonists. Because no student should serve time in a prison in school. Normal detention and suspension should suffice!

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Prison School – 11

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It’s cruch time for the inmates, and Gakuto quickly devises a fresh challenge for the Vice President—butt-wrestling—only to find Mari has replaced her, not due to doubt over Meiko’s loyalty or competence, but simply because she suspects the boys have caught on to her pattern of behavior and are planning to exploit her once more…which is exactly what is going on.

Their latest greatest plan thus foiled before it could get off the ground, it falls to Kiyoshi to use Meiko’s replacement Hana to regain access to the office. When he mentions the grudge Hana holds against him (without going into the tawdry details), they protest what could end up a very painful, bloody path, but he sees it as an opportunity to do right by the lads he wronged. They forgave him, but he hasn’t forgiven himself.

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As I suspected, Kiyoshi makes use of Chiyo’s message exchange to gain outside help, and while Chiyo is caught, it’s by Anzu, who shares her desire to get the boys un-expelled. The girls of the Underground StuCo may be the source of all their suffering, but girls also happen to be instrumental to their salvation.

When Gakuto’s quick thinking gets him and Kiyoshi in the office, then ends up alone with Hana, he’s expects the worst for his “eryngii” when she pulls out a pair of shears. Alas, Hana is no butcher, nor is she criminally insane; she merely uses the shears to cut the top off a bottle for him to pee in. Her plan for revenge remains the same; it has not escalated.

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But once Kiyoshi quickly removes his pants, then boxers, he realizes Hana is no less embarrassed by the intimacy of the situation than he is, so he steels himself and tries to win the emotional battle. When Hana realizes what’s happening, she too steels herself, removing her leggings and shimapan and turning the tables. Considering all the messed-up stuff these two have been through—largely through no fault of their own—this is par for the course.

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Kiyoshi doesn’t give up, however, and manages to unlock the door that must be unlocked for the larger plan to succeed. Then she kicks him for being too close, and he catches a glimpse of her “precious area”, which he calls her “medusa”, and then “turns to stone.” Yikes, that’s a lot of double entendres!

Just when Hana is about to pee on him, they’re startled by the commotion when Meiko captures a girl outside the prison. Everyone is dejected that Chiyo has been caught until Shingo recongizes the voice of Anzu, selflessly serving as Chiyo’s decoy and getting captured for the good of the mission.

Kiyoshi gets another accidental peek, and when he explains himself with those entendres, including the use of the term “medusa”, he causes Hana to start bawling. Why did he give it a name? Why does the first person to see her have to be him? Why did it have to turn out this way?

Kiyoshi offers his apologies, and offers to let her hit him as much as she wants…and she does. But hitting him won’t make them even. Instead, in keeping with her eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, she takes from him something he’ll never get back: his first kiss with a girl.

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Almost delirious with the justice she’s doled out, Hana gets Kiyoshi to admit he likes Mari’s little sister, and for that reason, Hana is resolved to do everything to him he doesn’t want her to do, no matter how embarrassing it might be. So as Chiyo sneaks around outside, fighting for Kiyoshi’s sake, Hana continues to purposefully make out with him.

Even if Chiyo doesn’t catch them in the act (something Kiyoshi could probably explain anyway), Kiyoshi won’t forget this evening in the prison office. The thing is, neither will Hana. I can’t believe this encounter won’t stay with her, and that she feels absolutely nothing genuine from it.

Amidst all the totally weird and wrong interactions they’ve had, there’s also been a sliver of chemistry and mutual attraction…it’s just a matter of neither knowing what the heck to do with such things.

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Prison School – 10

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What is that I see in Vice President Shiraki’s eyes, as she files Mari’s nails and then half-heartedly agrees that the school will be better off without the boys? Could it be a tinge of fondness for the five lads; a reverse-Stockholm syndrome, if you will? I don’t know, but I suspect her feelings are conflicted, at the very least. After all, if the boys are gone, who will be left to punish? Girls?

The council would certainly have some punitive measures in place for the likes of Chiyo, if they knew she was sneaking messages to Kiyoshi in his meals. By the way, why haven’t the two of them been doing this all along?

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In any case, the message she gets back is not from someone with any hope left, but someone saying goodbye and take care. The boys’ spirits are all but broken, and Gakuto is downright nuts, even faking out his buds with an absurd idea of sneaking themselves out with the meals like Chiyo’s note, and ordering fried grasshoppers for his “last meal” (a last meal that, by the way, seems to me like Meiko’s idea).

Meanwhile, Mari makes sure her father understands how things are going to go down, and to be ready to affix his seal on the necessary paperwork when the time comes. While it can be easy to deride Mari for exerting so much power while, at the end of the day, being beholden to daddy, it’s also a thankless position considering her dad’s abject inability to avoid exposing her to his latin butt fetish. He even kept the “mousepad” (a tremendous prop) while forgetting that glass is reflective.

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I don’t know if it was the taste of the grasshoppers or what, but Gakuto suddenly comes out of his psychosis, to the point he doesn’t remember ordering grasshoppers and rejects the dish outright. And yet, Meiko not only took that ridiculous order without batting an eye, she personally caught and fried the grasshoppers especially for Gakuto. This just isn’t someone in a big hurry to get rid of the guys. She’s someone who takes great pride in taking care of them, even so close to the end.

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And then there’s Prison School’s wild card, Hana, haunted by the feeling she’s forgotten something very important and impactful; something “that can’t be undone.” It’s only when the conditions of her last encounter with Kiyoshi are replicated that a switch flips in her head, and like Meiko, she doesn’t want the guys gone, but for a very different reason (so she can kill Kiyoshi, then herself).

But not so fast—just as a backlit Mari is smugly looking down on the boys as Meiko marches them up to the chairman’s office, the chairman is on his way down those same steps. Kiyoshi gave Meiko an appeal to give to him, but she tore it up. So what then, happened?

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Simple: the “appeal” was planted knowing Meiko would probably trash it. And that very obvious appeal would distract her from the fact Kiyoshi wrote the real appeal on his withdrawal form. And not just any appeal: a personal message to the chairman than he knows about his “buried treasure” out beyond the school walls. Once the chairman is in the prison, Kiyoshi quickly dismisses the notion that he intends to blackmail him; it was only to get him in the room.

Before he can consider postponing their expulsion to give them time to collect evidence of council malfeasance, the chairman has a very frank question: whether they prefer boobs or butts. Kiyoshi remembers the material he saw him with, and quickly states butts. But that’s not enough: the chairman wants to know why Butts.

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He makes a small origami sphinx out of Kiyoshi’s appeal just as Gakuto likens his riddle to that of the sphinx, about what has varying numbers of legs at different times (and the answer to which is “man”). As Meiko is eavesdropping, Hana tries to attack, but realizing the threat to the council a stabbed inmate would represent, she quickly neutralizes the Hana threat.

When Kiyoshi spots two round shapes from the window, he thinks it’s a butt at first, but it’s actually Meiko’s bust, the sight of which provides the spark to a response that will satisfy the chairman (who won’t hear any patronizing George Mallory-esque “because it’s there” BS). Boobs, Kiyoshi muses, only came about when mankind started standing upright, and no longer had the butts of those in front of them in their faces. Boobs are only a “pale imitation” of butts; butts are the original, accept no subsitutes.

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The discussion transcends its inherent dumbness with the pure seriousness and gravitas of its presentation, like so many other situations in Prison School (never before has shitting oneself in a computer lab seemed so goddamn noble before). As Kiyoshi get more and more worked up; as his idea takes a life of its own; he almost seems to become an “ass man” before our eyes in spite of his previous preference for the top bits. Performance or no, it’s more than enough to convince the chairman to give them one more day.

This outrages Mari, but the chairman, perhaps empowered by what he just witnessed, kindly points out to his daughter that he’s the boss, and he’s decided to postpone the expulsion one more day, and if she has a problem, tough. Like Chiyo, Anzu, and Meiko, he’d rather the male students not go, and wants to believe they can find a way out of their predicament.

Hana, meanwhile, is now a loose cannon consumed with a desire for revenge, even at (or perhaps especially) at the cost of her own life. She could represent Mari’s nuclear option, or contrarily, Kiyoshi and the others’ salvation. But like the lads, I’ll take that tiny strand of light as a sign things could still work out.

But guys, seriously: there’s no wet t-shirt contest. Meiko was just teasing!

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Prison School – 09

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One nice little insidious part of Prison School I appreciate is that it’s not above exposing its high school characters’ ignorance. Neither Shingo nor Anzu knew what Grapes of Wrath was about, assuming it’s some B-movie about giant rampaging grapes or something.

This week no one but Gakuto knows who Sun Tzu is, and assume he’s some telecom guy. But he’s not: he’s a general whose strategic and tactical ouevre will aide the newly-united lads’ last-gasp effort to overturn their expulsion: they must use the mighty Vice President Shiraki Meiko’s strength against her.

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They attempt to do this by appealing to her confidence in her own strength and conditioning, and the arrogance that comes with it. Meiko doesn’t just have an open shirt, she’s an open book, and the countless times she’s demonstrated her strength, either through punishment or intense calisthenics, they know she won’t be able to resist proving naysayers wrong. So they loudly arm wrestle, one of them mentions her by name as being the strongest in the school, and another expresses doubt, because she’s a gurrrrrl. That’s all that’s needed to provoke Meiko.

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Gakuto goes up against her first, and from the prison physique he’s developed, we think he might have a chance, but nope, he goes down in a second. It’s up to the other four to keep her busy for at least ten minutes while Gakuto steals her keys, sneaks into the office, downloads file restoration software, and recovers incriminating DTO emails that will expose the council of sabotaging the boys. If they can publicize that material, they can sway the school, and more importantly the director, into cancelling their expulsion.

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But even with four guys, ten minutes is a lot to ask. Kiyoshi succumbs to her nip-slip far too quickly, Shingo is all talk, and the emaciated Joe gets flung across the room like a dry rubber band, which was one of if not the funniest sight gag of the episode. The only one left is Andre, who must hold up for upwards of seven minutes. 

And while he’s really big, and strong from to the need to lug his weight around all day every day, Meiko probably doesn’t need 100% of her strength to beat him quickly as well…were it not for something completely oblivious to Andre, but which drives Meiko absolutely cuckoo: a very long hair protruding from his nipple.

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This is when things get a little…weird. In a brilliant reversal, Meiko is the one utterly mesmerized by someone else’s nipples. So much so, she begins to daydream of a single tree swaying in the desert, first on a clear day, then during a tornado (when Andre’s breath whips the hair around further). It’s a distraction within the larger distraction of the arm wrestling contest: and it creates a stalemate that is only overcome when she realizes she should just close her eyes, and enough of her spit from yelling excites Tinyface to the point he can’t hold out any longer, and loses.

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It’s a good thing Andre cries out, too, because it gives Gakuto the signal that he’d better get back to the cell, which he does, just in time, holding keys he can innocently say dropped out of Meiko’s jacket while she was wrestling. She takes the keys and departs without suspecting a thing.

If only anything came of the whole enterprise! Yes, despite having time to download and install the restoration software, in the end Gakuto didn’t have any time left to locate the incriminating files, to say nothing of distributing them. His momentary freedom was hard won, and a series of small miracles in and of itself, but it wasn’t enough.

And so, the guys become consigned to their fate, having given it their all. Expulsion is all but certain now, unless they can come up with any other ideas. Sun Tzu didn’t work out, but maybe they can glean a fresh strategem from the telecommunications gentleman’s biography!

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 12 (Fin)

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I’m not shy about my love for shows that are efficient enough to wrap everything up with an entire episode to spare, but this final DnH reminded me that yes, a show can wait until the last episode ever and still finish things in a satisfying manner without feeling rushed or overstuffed.

lot goes on this week, but it’s well-organized and well-paced. Virtually no time is wasted, and what idle time it does have it uses on nice character beats, which are also curtain calls here in the finale.

We start with Minafes(t), which we learn immediately turned out to be a great success with a huge turnout. Meanwhile, as karmic comeuppance for her attempts to poach Minafes patrons for her little symposium, Aoi’s auditorium is effectively deserted. Waah-waah…

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That idle time I mentioned above makes sense, because once Minafes is off and running, our club members are backstage spectators until their own performances. Kana and Senri spend it trying to cozy up to an unwitting, Kyoutarou before shooed off by Tamamo, who does the same exact thing.

It’s cute and true to all three characters, while also underlining that these three were always the more superficial of Kyou’s suitors, below Nagi and Tsugumi. Tsugumi, meanwhile, remains the only one of the club members who knows Kyou has become a Shepherd and will gradually disappear.

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Bitter over losing to Minafes, Aoi succumbs to pure mustache-twirling criminality, loosening the screws on the light assembly fated to fall upon Tsugumi. But she’s caught red-handed by the crack Shepherd team of Kyoutarou and Nagi, the latter of which makes good use of her strong legs and big breasts to subdue the perp.

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But while occupied with Aoi, the lights fall anyway, just as Tsugumi is below them. With just a moment to work with, Kyoutarou does the only thing he thinks he can to save her: use a book to transport himself, Nagi, Aoi, and the lights away. Tsugumi looks up at the now-empty catwalk, confused, but very alive. Success!

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Aoi ends up…somewhere else, and is so upset, she unleashes a vicious, incriminating tirade about how she just wants Kyou to disappear so she can create her perfect academy…and have President Mochizuki all to herself.

The camera stays close to her for the duration of the rant, but due both the lights above her and the reverb in her voice, I already knew she had been teleported onto the stage of her precious symposium!

What’s so deliciously awesome about this is that it not only punishes Aoi for all her misdeeds, but also ensures she won’t take any further action, since she’s now effectively confessed both to Mochizuki and a fair amount of the student body. The jig is up. Crime doesn’t pay, Aoi.

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With Tsugumi’s future saved and Aoi neutralized, it would seem our two young Shepherds are on a roll. But as they confer with their boss atop the school library, it’s clear they erred. Well, it’s clear they erred when they teleported onto a stage with dozens of people watching! They’re supposed to work in the shadows.

Kyou doesn’t care. He did what he felt he had to do to save Tsugumi, he doesn’t regret it, and he’d do it again. For those reasons, the boss laments that he’s not Shepherd material after all, even if Nagi is. The problem is, his book is already gone, so Shepherd or not, he’ll still disappear from everyone’s memories. Bummer.

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Tsugumi, neither as dumb as she looks or as weak as she says, knows what Kyou did for her and why. And even though she’s sad about losing him, she realizes The Show Must Go On. Compartmentalizing her pain, she takes the stage and delivers a hell of a speech about just how far her Happy Project went, thanks to teamwork, camaraderie, and love.

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She then passes the mic to Senri, who sings a beautiful but melancholy song that could serve as a lament for the loss of Kyou…who as it turns out got back in time to hear the speech and praise her for it.

He tells her his situation, but she assures him she won’t forget him, or let him go away, no matter what happened to his stupid book, and he draws her in for a big ‘ol hug. As it happens, his ex-boss re-makes his book for him, owning up to the fact he was wrong about Kyou being Shepherd material.

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Aoi formally apologizes, having been both chastened and moved by Tsugumi’s speech and under the forgiving Mochizuki’s guidance. The Happy Project gets its club room back (buh-bye, random guys!) and things return to normal. When Kyou comes home one day to find movers at Nagi’s old apartment, he looks a little sad, now that the newly-made Shepherd has moved on…

…But as it happens, Nagi is in his apartment, leaning on his bed watching the ‘tube as always. Turns out she was made Shepherd of Shiomi Academy, so she’s not going anywhere! Then Tsugumi and the rest of the club arrive at the door, and Nagi is eager to ‘make another scene’ to give them the wrong idea, and it’s medetashi medetashi.

But ‘Wait’, you might ask: ‘What about consequences?’ To which I’d respond: ‘lighten up!’ ita pleasant, charming rom-com that was always more about the threat of bad things happening and how to avoid them, not bad things actually happening. Besides, not being a Shepherd is a pretty big blow, and the fact Kyou still has to juggle six girls, and I’d say he still has challenges in store.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 11

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When first faced with their clubroom predicament, courtesy of the scheming Aoi (who thinks she’s doing the Shepherd’s good work), for a moment I wondered “Gee, why don’t they just use their superpowers to get rid of the excess members? Then I remembered this wasn’t InoBato. ;)

Kyoutarou also tells everyone to look on the bright side: the Happy Project is still alive and kicking and they’re all together, so who cares about a clubroom? This is true, but it’s also refreshing, as so many other club-focused anime make the loss of their venue seem like the end of the world.

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Kyoutarou tells Nagi about losing the room, but she either forgets, or specifically wants to hang off of Kyoutarou and ask him what he wants for dinner to torture Tsugumi, who does not like hearing the words “Nagi” and “last night” in the same sentence.

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When the StuCo (really Aoi) schedules a celebrity alumnai-fueld symposium on the same day as Minafest, and the club brainstorms their next move, Kyoutarou receives a vision of the future in which a stage light falls on Tsugumi’s head, apparently killing her. With that, everything concerning the club room, Minafest, or the harem situation falls by the wayside for Kyoutarou. All that matters is changing that future.

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Over a Nagi-prepared repast of pre-packages shumai, Kyoutarou tells Nagi he wants to become a Shepherd. Yes, even after everything Nagi did to get him to hook up with another girl. If he’s not a Shepherd, he doesn’t have the power to stop what will happen to Tsugumi. From his perspective, it’s better for her to forget him than for her to be dead. I can’t say I disagree with him. Set aside, for now, is the Shepherd Boss’ implication that between Kyou and Nagi only one can become a Shepherd.

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When the boss starts erasing Kyou’s book, Tsugumi, on the phone with Tamamo and talking about him, senses something is amiss when she can’t recall something she had deemed unforgettable. She races to Kyoutarou’s in the rain, where Nagi is conveniently absent that night, and tells him she doesn’t want to forget him, planting a big ol’ smooch on him.

After showering (from running in the rain), Kyoutarou tells her he has to do this, and she begs him to take her with him. He tells her everyone will forget her if he does and asks if she’s okay with that, and she turns the question back around on him. “It’s for the best,” says Kyou, not mentioning this is the only way to save her life. “I hate Shepherds,” Tsugumi says, crestfallen. “Especially Kakeis who have become Shepherds.”

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The next day Kyoutarou receives and urgent call from Kana telling him something’s wrong with Senri. He races to her house to find Senri dressed like a nurse and Kana dressed as a bunny, and they totally ambush him with their feminine wiles. He manages to fight them off and get an explanation, which is that Kana read on the internet that this was how you kept a guy from going away.

While yes, this scene was a bit excessive, it did reinforce what Kyoutarou will be giving up when he becomes a Shepherd. It also shows that while Senri and Kana can put on the charm, the two come on a bit too strong to be serious contenders for his heart. I appreciate the teamwork, though…as I’m sure a part of Kyou does.

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Back at school, Tamamo demands an explanation from Kyou, not for his recent visit to Senri’s, but for a newspaper article about him “selling his body” to the StuCo in exchange for making Minafest an official event. Kyou assures them it’s just another one of Aoi’s tricks. He’s not going anywhere…at least for now.

Senri visits Kyou on the roof (while Nagi stays out of sight), and tells him she’s decided to sing at Minafest, not for the sake of anyone but him and the other Happy Project members. Asking him if this was a future path he saw, he responds that she chose it all on her own. Senri makes him close his eyes again, but this time she kisses him…on the forehead.

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The rest of the club finds out about Senri singing, and the rumor spreads throughout the school, increasing interest in Minafest. Tsugumi and Senri even go on the school radio to promote it, and Senri takes the opportunity to ask Miyu to be her emcee, in an effort to repair their relationship (that Senri is going to perform heartens her pink-haired friend).

Aoi hears of these countermoves but isn’t concerned; she’s confident she’ll be proven right in her belief (fueeld by texts from her “shepherd”) that the library club shouldn’t exist. Meanwhile, it seems President Mochizuki may be on to her subordinate’s treachery.

Aoi may not even be totally wrong, though, as Kyoutarou can’t seem to find a path where Tsugumi won’t get killed at Minafest…even though finding one was precisely the catalyst that led him to become a Shepherd in the first place!

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 10

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While last week was more of a battle between Kyoutarou and Nagi’s Shepherd philosophies regarding Senri’s path, this week focuses more on relationships — specifically, little sisters. Now that Kyoutarou remembers Nagi being his little sister (half-sister; his dad had many wives) who he once saved from pedophile house servants (!!!) Nagi decides she’s in a playful mood and commits to it, moving in with Kyoutarou, who doesn’t resist.

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While Kana is busy making sure Senri has as much fun as she can (read into that what you will), Kyoutarou pays for the privilege of having a busty and voluptuous house guest when Tsugumi makes an unannounced visit, and she comes right out (well, not right out) and asks him to be her boyfriend.

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Well, to pretend to be her boyfriend, at least, for when they visit her little sister Sayori. Even though she’s little and bedridden, Sayori struck me immediately as stronger, more assertive and honest with her feelings than her sister, and sees through the ploy instantly. She’s actually a pretty cool and mature sibling, not at all your typical unreasonable brat who gives her sister’s guy a hard time.

On the contrary, she’s grateful her ‘introverted’ sister has his and her friends’ support. You get the feeling Sayori would rather not be in the hospital so she can look after Tsugumi properly.

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As thanks for his service, Tsugumi wants to make Kyoutarou dinner, but since Nagi has moved in, he has to temporarily relocate her to his balcony while she does so, lest Tsugumi get the wrong idea. I’m not sure at this point what the right idea is, though. Why does Nagi want to play house so bad? Getting her kicks in before becoming a shepherd, I guess…but doesn’t constant proximity to him soften her resolve?

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In any case, the next day Tsugumi arrives with her discharged-for-the-day sister, again unannounced. This time Nagi won’t go quietly onto the balcony, and instead creates a sticky situation for Kyoutarou, who must explain more to Sayori than Tsugumi, what exactly is going on. Nagi doesn’t help matters by letting on that they’re up to more than they really are, and Kyoutarou’s sister excuse does seem flimsy, even if it’s technically the truth.

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Nagi may think this is all a big joke and everyone will forget her soon anyway, but Sayori isn’t laughing; she’s legitimately concerned for Tsugumi and wants straight answers. She gets so worked up she collapses. Rather than risk waiting for help, Kyoutarou begs Nagi to use her book-teleportation power to take Sayori to the hospital. Perhaps aware that this is kinda all her fault, Nagi obliges.

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Of course, this means Tsugumi has seen the power of the shepherds, and Kyoutarou tells her the rest, about how he’s in training. Their trip home is silent and awkward as you’d expect, and Kyoutarou figures Tsugumi would rather have nothing more to do with him, but in that he’s sorely mistaken: Tsugumi uses the opportunity to beg him not to go anywhere or be erased from her memories, and then confesses to him.

She walks it back a bit, but it’s out there, and it isn’t as if Kyoutarou isn’t receptive. In fact, could this have been Nagi’s plot all along; to get him and Tsugumi closer? Was she just pretending to be put out by Tsugumi’s visits?

Oh yeah, and the clubroom has been suddenly overrun by a bevy of manga-reading, formerly inactive guys, which is Takigawa’s doing. It appears the Veep won’t allow the club’s pseudo-Shepherd-like activities to continue. How will they fight back?

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 09

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Who makes a better Shepherd: the one who would guide their sheep along a life path that makes the most of their latent talent, or along the path that would net the sheep the most happiness? The question begs asking, because in the case of the “Song Princess” Misono Senri, those two paths are divergent.

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Simply put, as good as she was, or is, or could be at singing, it just doesn’t make Senri happy anymore, which has led her to neglect her practicing. It hasn’t made her happy ever since she learned her best friend Serizawa would quit if Senri beat her. Senri took a dive, yet still won, and lost Serizawa anyway. Her talent hurt someone dear to her, and caused them to drift apart.

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So why keep singing, when it only gives her pain and reminds her of what she’s lost? If she does keep singing, who’s to say she won’t lose more friends to her talent? Nagi, as Shepherd-in-Training, takes the road of maximum talent cultivation at any cost: Senri must get back on track, or she’s doomed to become ‘just an ordinary student’.

Kyoutarou inserts himself in Nagi’s mission and ends up taking it over completely, taking the other road: the road of happiness. He does this not to one-up Nagi, but because he wants to help his friend. His answer is, if singing is painful, Stop. Enjoy life. Have fun with friends. Don’t worry about the labels others give you. Make your own mark. Do what you want, not what’s expected of you. He even suggests the same of Nagi herself.

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Meanwhile, what do we have here? Oh, just Vice Predient Tokigawa obsessively photographing President Mochizuki and photoshopping her face on Kyoutarou’s body for pleasure. She also seems to be in contact with ‘a’ Shepherd, though which one who can say. I can’t say there’s enough here to work with, so I’ll just move on. :)

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Back to Senri, who takes to Kyou’s advice like a fish to water. Who hasn’t reveled in waking up only to realize you can go back to bed? Such Luxury! Or helping her fellow library club members plan their upcoming festival event. Or goofing off with Kana, who assures her no one in the club will hate her for doing what she feels she needs to do to be happy, even if that’s quitting singing forever.

Tamamo initially takes a sterner position, saying she can’t abide people who waste their talents, but later confides to Kyoutarou (in a scene where she’s very physically close to him) that it was her jealousy speaking; she herself wanted to be an artist, but her family forbade it in favor of a path that would lead to more success, if not more happiness. So she doesn’t really begrudge so much as envy Senri’s situation.

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As the episode progresses, one cannot argue that Kyoutarou’s way has resulted in a much bubblier, happier Senri, who literally makes her mark on him by stamping his hand with a smiley face. When Serizawa confronts him about rumors the Song Princess has quit, Kyoutarou refers to the canary who lost its song.

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Then Nagi confronts Kyoutarou, warning him that he could be condemning that canary to a life of mediocrity. Kyoutarou, who is content to give Senri time to ‘find her song anew’, as it were, wonders why Nagi is in such a damn hurry to ‘fix’ Senri…

That’s when the environs darken and the Shepherd recruiter appears, telling Kyoutarou he’s passed the second exam and can become a Shepherd anytime he wants. They transport to the Grand Library, where the recruiter presents Kyou with Nagi’s book.

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Nagi, as we know, is in a hurry to cast away her past in order to become a Shepherd, but as Kyoutarou learns once he opens that book, that is prohibitively difficult as long as her past is right in front of her: Kyou was her “big brother,” which I assume is a term of endearment, rather than an indication they’re actually related.

This is not so much a huge shock for us considering Nagi’s behavior these past eight episodes, but it definitely puts her in a new light for Kyoutarou, who has the power, if he desires to use it, to ensure she lives a normal life, even if that’s not what she wants.

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Girl Friend BETA – 05

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This week’s delicious episode of Girl Friend BETA centers on an entirely new set of students, namely the school’s student council, led by President Amatsu Kanata and Vice President Shinomiya Risa (Hikasa Yoko). The schools in a rather unusual pickle: with the entire cafeteria staff stuck on Easter Island, the cafeteria finds itself stocked with food, but no one to cook, order, or serve. President Amatsu decides the StuCo will take up the challenge and cook for the school in the staff’s stead.

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Amatsu is notorious among the council members below her for being terrible at absolutely everything except making tea, which she’s almost preternaturally good at. She’s also good at suggesting ideas that require an immense amount of work, the bulk of which ends up being done by Shinomiya and the other members, because Amatsu can’t do anything properly and ends up creating more work than had she not lifted a finger at all. But again, when the first morning of training is over, she makes everyone a fantastic cuppa.

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Do not watch this episode on an empty stomach! Between the curry and rice, meat and potatoes, tonkatsu, freshly-made yakisoba bread, udon, and “random” designer bentos, there’s a lot to make one’s mouth water. I for one love cooking, and the episode does a good job showing just how Herculean a task running the cafeteria can be…especially when word gets out the council is kicking ass in there and the number of customers increases.

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Throughout it all, Risa is essentially a very hands-on Executive Chef, handling several orders at a time and keeping the rest of the kitchen running smoothly while making sure Amatsu doesn’t serve anyone raw chicken. At one point when the orders pile up, Risa starts to think she’s in over her head and screams out for help. Amatsu is there in the break room with the perfect cup of Chamomile with honey to calm her nerves.

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And that’s what makes Amatsu the X-factor in the whole operation: Sure, she’s terrible at cooking, recommends dishes that aren’t on the menu, and is generally a nuisance, but the phenomenal tea actually makes a big difference for the makeshift staff throughout the episode; she almost serves as their White Mage. But it’s not just about the tea: Amatsu knows how to rally her troops, set lofty goals, bring out the best in everyone, including Risa, and never ever lose heart. That’s what makes Amatsu a good leader. It’s not really a mystery why she’s the president.

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